How To Escape the Agony of Agitated Exhaustion

Lying on my bed with my mind running a million miles per hour, my agitations made it impossible to find the rest my body needed so badly. The agitated exhaustion I suffered from since I had first come down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was unbearable.

If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia, then you’re likely to have experienced agitated exhaustion firsthand.

Woman Suffering from Agitated Exhaustion

Woman Suffering from Agitated Exhaustion

Erica Verrillo and Lauren Gellman explain the term in their book Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide. “[Agitated exhaustion] is often described as a ‘tired and wired’ feeling. A person with this type of fatigue does not feel sleepy, although the desire for rest is overwhelming.”

Agitated exhaustion filled my life with terror. My mind was occupied by thoughts such as, “Damn it. This is hell on earth. I need to get out of this.” I was worried that my girlfriend would leave me. My worst concern was that no matter what I did I would never be able to enjoy life again and that I would eventually end up committing suicide, filling my family’s hearts with deep sorrow.

Before I had I suffered from agitated exhaustion, I would have just lay down and deeply rested when I was tired, but now I was haunted by a million thoughts that made me feel worse. Trying to distract myself by reading didn’t work either: prior to coming down with ME/CFS reading would have calmed me and infused me with a sense of peaceful magic, but now the thought of picking up a book alone was enough to worsen my mental exhaustion.

Do You Sometimes Feel As If There Is No Way Out?

Perhaps you feel as I did. You just don’t know how to get out of the vicious cycle of agitated exhaustion. Just like I was, you may be longing for rest and healing – but it seems as if there is no way out.

I did not feel like there was much hope, but even in my despair I kept up the search. It was on the Phoenix Rising site that I read about the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Programme which promised to give me the tools and inspiration to accelerate my recovery from ME/CFS employing my mind and emotions. I couldn’t possibly imagine that it would work, but since Phoenix Rising’s Cort Johnson shared his positive experiences of the program on his blog, I decided to give it a try.

The Teachings in the Program Were Radical, and So Were My Results.

I have to be honest, at the time I tried the program I was thinking, “I can control the thoughts that occupy my mind and whether they make me calm or agitated? No way!” But as I had promised myself, I gave the program a wholehearted try.

Even after committing, I couldn’t help but think, “I will feel better by utilizing some psycho woo-woo tool? No way! But I tried the tool and couldn’t believe the relief I felt. It eased my agitation and had me feel better than I had felt in months. My experience was, indeed, profound.

Four Easy Steps to Escaping Agitated Exhaustion

But I also want to help you right now, in this moment. The four easy steps I’ll share with you are a simplified version of a technique you will learn in the Amygdala Retraining Program. Although they are not as powerful as the complete Amygdala Retraining Programme, my hope is that they will still offer you relief.

Step 1: Identify What Causes Your Despair

Ask yourself: “What is one negative thought that’s occupying my mind in this moment?” Examples of negative thoughts include thoughts of:

  1. Fear: “I’ll never be healthy and happy again.”
  2. Blaming: “I can’t believe my friend hasn’t called me since I got sick. I thought he was a better person than that.”
  3. Shaming: “I’m worthless. I’ll never be able to work or help anyone.”

How do you recognize negative thoughts? A negative thought is any thought that is based on fear. Conversely, thoughts based on love are usually positive. A thought’s weight also reveals its nature. Thoughts that feel light are positive; thoughts that feel heavy are negative.

When I first began to identify negative thoughts, I had thoughts such as: “My body is broken,” and, “I’ll never feel better.” These thoughts felt dark and weighed on me heavily.

Step 2: Deliberately Stop the Negativity

Firmly and kindly say out loud, “Stop!” Say it as if you were telling a beautiful horse standing in front of you to back up. Speak firmly and confidently, yet with love. If you like, use your hands to emphasize/strengthen the meaning of your words.

When I first began to stop my negative thoughts, I had the powerful guidance of Ashok Gupta in his Amygdala Retraining Programme. I remember how I lay on my back to listen to the instructions but got up to do this step of the process. I had a hunch (or was it just hope?) that this exercise could change my life. Using my arms and hands to emphasize my words, I firmly said: “Stop.” I knew I did it right because after only a few times of doing it, I already felt a little better.

Step 3: Inhale Health and Happiness

Smile a big smile and take a slow, deep breath in. Smiling really shifts our energy and thoughts—even if we don’t feel like smiling. Go ahead and try it. Right now, ask your face to come up with the biggest grin the world has ever seen of you – Yeah, that’s what I mean 🙂

I put the biggest smile on my face that I could muster and inhaled slowly. I realized that I was looking out the 2nd floor window and saw people walk by on the city street below me. If they had seen me, they’d have thought I was crazy. I didn’t care – all I cared about was getting better.

Step 4: Enter the Healing Zone

Remember something or someone you love. Really bring the memory alive. What is the image associated with the memory of love? What are the colors, the smell, and the sound associated with your memory? Feel love rising up inside your body as you breathe out slowly and lovingly.

To enter the healing zone, I evoked in myself memories of my mother and my brother from Germany, and the garden of my parents in law in the Sonoma Wine country. The thought of my mother infused me with love. The thought of my brother walking next to me on a vibrant summer day in my in-law’s garden evoked in me a feeling of health and happiness.

Now, put the technique I explained in steps 1) through 4) into practice. That’s how you will experience its power. Do as many run-throughs of the technique as it takes to completely eliminate your negative thought. (It usually, takes three to ten times).

If you don’t want to do ten run-throughs, just do one. Doing one run-through now can still change your life.

Enjoy the peace and happiness naturally coming to you as you let go of the negative thoughts. Applied daily, stopping your negative thoughts by going through the four simple steps of this technique can give you your life back.

Over to You

What do you think? Leave a comment under this post to share your experience of engaging in the technique. Please also do ask any questions you may have; I’ll be sure to answer.

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© Johannes Starke 2012

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  1. Lovely stuff. One way I recognize negative thoughts is by listening to my body…when my heart starts racing and my muscle tighten up and my breath shortens somewhere in there there is often a seed of a negative thought, if I can find it – which I cannot admittedly at times, which has tweaked my system. Why our systems get tweaked so easily by stress is unclear….lots of people – most people in fact are just filled with negative thoughts – and they’re not effected physiologically by them but my system is… I love the little things we can do moment by moment to feel better…

    • Just to clarify some of the coiufsnon. When they say the Mono test was negative they mean the heterophile antibody test is negative. Unfortunately about 50% of young children and 10-20% of adults never develop heterophile antibodies. That is when one needs Epstein-Barr serological tests to diagnose the mono.Now clinically there is what we call Mono and then there is what is an atypical case of EBV infection called CFS . There is some debate on whether EBV is the cause of CFS. In any case those cases are diagnosed by EBV serology. They are clinically distinct from Mono based on the longevity of symptoms, sometimes years, to get over it.EBV can cause infectious Mono and according to some CFS. Was this answer helpful?

    • Great observations, Cort. Some people like Ashok Gupta say that once we have CFS our stress response gets sensitized. We get more easily stressed than people who’ve never had CFS.
      The upside I see in being sensitive that once we’re skillful at living with it, we can also pick up joy and humor more easily than others. What do you think?

  2. Hey so sorry you are having such a hell time!! i have CFS too for about 5 years. i am able to work thoguh but not much else! was only able to work 3 days and then read some of Patrick Holford books and followed them over time and managed to work 5 days a week. its a struggle thoguh. ideally i prefer to do less!! anyway sounds like you have done all of that over and over as we all do. the only other things i can recommend are tricyclic antidepressants (they help with chronic illness) and multiminerals. i do swear by a really good multimineral. o also i did see a kinesiologist chiroprctor and he was extremely helpful!!!All the best take care and dont despair!

    • Hi Ken,
      Thanks for your kind words and advice. I’m glad you’ve found things that helped you to regain your health and functionality. I did not make it very clear in the article, but you’ll be happy to know that I was fortunately able to recover as well.
      In my experience different treatments work for different people. And I agree that all of the things you mentioned will likely be helpful for a subset of the people who get diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Again, I’m happy that you found treatments that work for you!


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